GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Cedar Springs family is trying to deal with not one but two cancer diagnoses.
The ordeal started in January 2016, when Brison Ricker, 16, was diagnosed with what doctors say is a non-curable form of brain cancer called DIPG.
Then later that year, just two days before Christmas, Brison's younger brother Preston, 13, got the news that he had thyroid cancer.
"In June on the 17th we found out his tumor had doubled in size,” says Kim Ricker, the boys' mother. “At that point, he was sent home and told there was nothing more that could be done for him and that we should call hospice and enjoy the little time that we have left."
But Brison’s optimism throughout the year become a source of inspiration for his family.
"I don't really know how I feel,” says Brison. “I just know I can beat this, and it's going to all work out good in the end."
Refusing to give up hope, Brison’s mom searched for a way to save her son’s life. The family found that hope in Texas, where a doctor was performing a one-of-a-kind experimental cancer treatment.
"It's an amino acid and peptide therapy,” Kim says. “It's something Dr. Burzenski has dedicated his entire life's research to developing."
But since it’s not FDA approved, the therapy is not covered by insurance. And the treatment has been costing the family tens of thousands of dollars a month. Preston's diagnosis later in the year compounded the hardships.
Preston had surgery for his cancer on Monday at the DeVos Children’s hospital in Grand Rapids.
"They removed his entire thyroid and 40-something lymph nodes from his neck, and 18 they found were cancerous," says Kim.
She says that Preston is doing well and treatment has a 95% survival rate.
Meanwhile, brother Brison is defying the odds. Doctors initally gave him sixto nine months to live, but he has surpassed expectations by several months.
The family says they will continue fighting on in hopes that both boys will make it through their battles against cancer.
A fundraiser for the Ricker brothers will be held January 16 from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Ceder Spring Brewery. If you'd like to contribute, click here for their GoFundMe page.